Silences in Teaching

Les voix du silence dans l’académie

Laura Lewis

Less predictable academic silences are those that have proven to, quite literally, take my breath away. They are moments that you grow into as a teacher as you become less self-conscious, uptight, and more present in the moment with your students. In social work, these silences are often born of personal pain, knowing, and deep reverence.

On one particular occasion an entirely female class had just watched a Canadian film that graphically documented violence against women in every corner of the globe. Scene by scene the students encountered the trafficking of women, the non-responsiveness of judicial systems, the perpetuation of victimization across generations, and the sexualization of young girls for the purposes of prostitution. At the conclusion of this film, silence gripped the room. Some of the young women were crying, others had “checked out” psychologically in an effort to protect themselves against this unrelenting reality, others were ever so quiet as they absorbed what they had just witnessed.

In moments such as these, silence is really the only adequate response. With it, that day, we paid homage to the survivors and victims of these domestic battlefields. Many of the students could relate to these scenes: could see themselves, or their families, on the screen. Silences such as these linger. Are honoured. Are committed to memory.